Part 57: The Show Must Go On 
  
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"She laughed and danced with the thought of death in her heart." (The Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Andersen)
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         -Ruta-

       Only a smidgen of guilt made itself known when I left Zenobia, Morgana, and the old man behind to head to the ball. Leaving them was my only choice, however. I can't have them ending the ball before I make it there. Nate's death must have a vast audience, as my death had. This is something that I have to do alone and I don't have the time nor patience to have that old, daft man or that foolish blonde dragging me down by trying to tag along.

             With an angry sigh, I pull on Abyss's reins, forcing the dark horse to come to a rest. In the scattered shadows left amongst the burning city, Abyss and I seem to mesh and blend into the darkness. Wicked flames have arisen all throughout the city. Finding these shadows to hide in was difficult.

             I push a sleeve of my dress up with one hand and use the other to stroke the mane of the stoic creature I'm seated on. It feels like soft feathers beneath my quivering fingertips.

             The smirk on my face isn't forced. I know a falsity when I hear one and the crude way I spoke of Reegan and Morgana made my radar flare. I harbor no anger towards either of them; both were nothing but kind to me and I appreciate their help. I know the reason I'm speaking ill of them: time is short. I can't let myself dwell in the small happiness that their friendship has brought me. This is not the time to be looking backwards, over my shoulder, at the delicate, flickering memories these people have managed to engrave into my soul. This is not the time to be thinking of Reegan, of Morgana, of Zenobia.

             As hard as it is to get those three out of my head, it's nearly impossible to stop thinking about Eden. Even now, all I can think about is him. I wonder how he's doing. Is he still sleeping? Has his family come to see him? Is he even alive anymore?

            Fear twists my stomach into a knot. "No, no, no...!" I push my ragged nails through my bundles of sweaty, bright hair, inadvertently scratching my scalp while doing so. I hold my hair away from my face and suck in heavy breaths, trying to fight away the panic that's threatening to consume me. My fingers clutch harder at my scalp, so hard that I fear they may break skin and find hold of my skull.

           I can't think about him, I can't think about anything else in this world other than Nate and his impending death. Everything else is temporary; it always has been. I always knew my given time here in this world would come to an end.

            I just never knew it would be this hard to accept.

            Composure comes quickly once I set my eyes on the goal again: Nate. Immediately, two crystalline blue eyes, pale skin, and black hair swim into my mind, a putrid mixture that makes me sick. I just have to remain focused on Nate, on his death. He's the reason I'm here in this world again. He's the reason I left this world too early. Nate must die. And he must die before midnight.

            Reinvigorated, I pull on Abyss's reins, urging him out of the shadows and onto the burning streets again. It seems as if the monsters hone in on us instantly, because the scattered few in our area begin heading this way. I have the sword which rested at my hip drawn in a matter of seconds.

             A winged creature with feathers affixed to his entire being meets his death when he dares to draw close to me. One swing of my blade and his right wing, followed closely by the rest of his body, takes a rather gruesome fall to the ground. His howling cry seems to beckon more of his brethren to me. They begin to swarm Abyss and I, all the while gnashing their fangs at our flesh and flicking out their split tongues and hisses at us in anticipation of our downfall.

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